Tim Rutten (LA Times) with video (00:30):
The emergence of the neo-populist "tea party" has been the big story of this election cycle. After the votes are cast in November, we may realize that the political resurgence of big business and great wealth was far more significant in determining election outcomes.
To an extent not seen in generations, companies and wealthy investors with a naked economic interest in influencing election results are pouring money into races.
Big money's reassertion of its interests is the result of two recent game-changing events. One was the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which overturned provisions of the bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance act that prohibited corporations and unions from making supposedly independent, third-party expenditures to influence the outcome of electoral contests.
The other was emendation of the tax code to allow creation of so-called 501(c)(4) political action committees to which donors can contribute anonymously. Such organizations are supposed to make less than half of their expenditures for political purposes. But the definition of "educational" activity is extremely squishy, and organizations are able to lump a lot of things that look like blatant politicking under that umbrella. MORE...